Our theme for the 2021-22 school year was IGNITE. We asked our community to think about the power of a single word of encouragement and to imagine the smallest spark that could transform the future. I cherished the opportunity to think about how I could be that spark in my work, and I searched for other examples of tiny lights in my daily routine and in my work teams.
I also thought a lot this year about burnout. That weighty little word seemed to be everywhere, and it’s no wonder. Educators and families, and students have shouldered a heavy load over the last couple of years. We have worked hard, and we are tired.
The push and pull of burnout and inspiration is where many school-based clinicians live. Personally, I am frustrated and upset by the problems we still haven’t solved. At the same time, I love the field of speech and language, and I see a chance to do more good than harm in the schools. When burnout is even in the periphery, that spark, the ember, the encouraging word becomes even more important.
As we wrap up progress notes and head out for summer break, we have an opportunity to combat burnout actively. Taking a break is an excellent first step. Here are 3 other ways I find reinvigoration and IGNITE my passion for my job:
Remember my “why” – This may seem obvious, but sometimes by June, it feels like the reason I’m doing my work is because the paperwork is overdue, my schedule says I need to show up, or that screening/material prep/assessment just needs to be completed before anyone asks me about it again! Summer provides a time-out on all of that and a chance to remember why I do this work. Sometimes it’s the report of huge gains on a progress note or the heartfelt comments I receive from a grateful parent or teacher that remind me why I chose this field in the first place. Other times, I have to go back to notes and cards I’ve saved or reread my own writing on why I do this, or I visit our People page and read the whys of my colleagues. However you do it, reconnecting with your why is a worthwhile summer pursuit.
Find my people – During the school year, this mantra to “find my people” is a reminder to take advantage of the easy collaboration that comes from teachers that welcome me into their classroom, parents that respond to my emails, and administrators who ask me questions! It’s usually not everyone, but my passion is buoyed by the one or two enthusiastic takers. At school, these might be the people who share my why and appreciate our mission. During the summer, the search for ‘my people’ broadens a bit to include authors, public speakers, bloggers, YouTubers, and podcasters. Remember to look for the people who share your why and help you feel good.
Take opportunities to shift my focus – You can be passionate about your work and have other interests! In fact, building connections and activities outside of work can help you be more resilient when the work gets hard and overwhelming. So, explore a hobby, join a club, and remind yourself how rich and multi-dimensional you are as a person. Are you having trouble thinking of a hobby? Start asking other people what they do for fun, or scroll through MeetUp.org, edX.org, or your local community college catalog.
The lesson for me personally, as I look back on the year, was that finding a passion for my job is sometimes hard work. It is not enough to wait for inspiration and encouragement. Especially in our current times, we need to be aware and alert and work to recognize a spark, however small.